Europa’s ice-related atmosphere: The sputter contribution

Vorburger, Audrey Helena; Wurz, Peter (2018). Europa’s ice-related atmosphere: The sputter contribution. Icarus, 311, pp. 135-145. Elsevier 10.1016/j.icarus.2018.03.022

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Europa, Jupiter’s innermost icy satellite, is embedded well within Jupiter’s magnetospheric plasma, an intense flux of ions and electrons that approximately corotate with Jupiter. The plasma can be thought of as consisting of two populations: The cold, thermal plasma containing charged particles with energies ranging from 1 eV to 1 keV, and the hot, energetic plasma containing charged particles with energies ranging from 10 keV to 10 0 MeV. When the charged particles interact with Europa’s surface, they not only chemically and physically alter the icy surface, but also liberate material from the surface through a process called sputtering, which in turn forms a tenuous atmosphere. In this paper we calculate the sputter contribution to the atmosphere by modeling the formation of Europa’s ice-sputtered atmosphere ab initio. We consider the species H, H 2, O, OH, H 2 O, O 2 , HO 2 , H 2 O 2 , and O 3 , all of which are related to the water–ice surface. Whereas the ice sputter yields of H2O, H2, and O2 have been well established, the ice sputter yields (and the resulting density profiles) of H, O, OH, HO 2 and O 3 are small and largely unknown. As model input we use available plasma ion and electron energy spectra as well as available water-ice sputter yields. Based on first principles, i.e., without applying any scaling to observed data, we calculate atmospheric densities ab initio. Our results match available observational data and previously published modeling efforts well. Europa’s exosphere is dominated by thermally accommodated O 2 close to the surface (below a few 100 km), and the much lighter H 2 molecules at higher altitudes. The water-ice related species that stick to the surface (freeze out) are liberated by cold and hot plasma sputtering in about equal amounts. In addition, in the case of H 2 , O 2 , and H 2 O 2, electrons contribute almost as significantly to the sputter yield as ions do.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Vorburger, Audrey Helena and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering
500 Science > 530 Physics








Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

03 May 2018 14:19

Last Modified:

03 May 2018 14:19

Publisher DOI:





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